ASU: Medgar Evers receives the United States’ highest civilian honor, posthumously

Medgar Evers, an alumnus of Alcorn State University, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest U.S. civilian honor awarded to individuals.

The award recognizes individuals who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

“This honor is well-deserved for Mr. Medgar Wiley Evers, an Alcorn alumnus, because of his immeasurable duty to our country and the state of Mississippi,” said Dr. Tracy M. Cook, president of Alcorn. “Mr. Evers’ life was a testament to selfless service and sacrifice. His pursuit of justice, equality, and unity have made our world a better place.”

Evers was selected to receive the award by U.S. President Joe Biden.

While attending Alcorn A&M College, Evers was a standout student-athlete and scholar. He was a member of the University’s choir, debate team, and track and football teams. In addition, Evers was junior class president.

He graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

After returning from World War II, Evers and his friends tried to vote but were turned away at gunpoint. This event launched his work in civil rights to seek fairness and equality.

He began his civil rights career by serving as president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership and later took a role with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as the first field officer in Mississippi.

Evers expanded the footprint of the NAACP in Mississippi through the development of new chapters, organizing protests, and voter registration drives.

He led the NAACP’s high-profile investigations into the murder of Emmett Till and the wrongful conviction of Clyde Kennard.

His wife, Myrlie Evers-Williams, became chairwoman of the NAACP, serving three years in the role.

Several United States legislators supported this award for the late civil rights leader.

Other Mississippians who have received this honor include civil rights activist James Earl Chaney; Representative G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery; Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise; historian Dumas Malone; musical artists Leontyne Price and B.B. King; writers Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams; and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.